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Philly's Top Five Ghosts

Forget eligible bachelors—Halloween time is here and Philly’s most eligible ghosts are ready to mingle. As one of America’s oldest cities, Philadelphia’s undead citizens are lurking around every corner—waiting in line at Shake Shack, complaining about trolley outages, lining up to get pumpkin spice groceries at the Market Street Trader Joe’s. From friendly phantoms to angry apparitions, here’s a rundown of Philly’s top five ghosts:

 

Ma-McGillin 

(Picture credit: McGillin's Olde Ale House)

Ghost: “Ma” McGillin

Haunts: McGillin’s Olde Ale House, 1310 Drury Street
At Philly’s longest continually operating ale house, ghosts are as common a sight as tipsy locals. The most famous ghost that has been known to haunt this bar is the spirit of “Ma” McGillin, who ran the operation until she was 90 years old. The bar manager even claims to have a picture of Ma standing by the ale house’s fireplace. Think you’ve spotted her? Maybe it’s time that someone cuts you off.

 

Ghost: The Lantern Ghost
Haunts: Moshulu, 401 S. Christopher Columbus Blvd.
At this posh restaurant, located atop the world’s oldest square rigged sailing vessel, there’s more on the menu than just lobster bisque and steak tartare. Make a reservation at Moshulu and you might get to see the Lantern Ghost, an angry specter often observed laughing and screeching throughout the ship’s hull. The story goes that the Lantern Ghost died in a fire and now roams the ship at night, relighting table lanterns after the wait staff blows them out.

 

Ghost: Blind Jack Osteen and Harold Thorn
Haunts: The Merchants Exchange Building, 143 S. 3rd Street
It’s no surprise that the oldest standing stock exchange in America might be home to a few unsettled spirits, but at the Merchants Exchange Building at 3rd and Walnut Sts., it’s the poor that take revenge. Visit this stately attraction and you might catch a glimpse of Blind Jack Osteen, a famous blind beggar who was killed by a merchant named Harold Thorn. In an act of karmic revenge, Thorn himself was killed by his own horse shortly after the murder. These two ghosts make their presence known by the thumping of disembodied horse hooves.

 

Ghost: Alexander Hamilton
Haunts: The First National Bank of America, 116 S. 3rd Street
This foolhardy president, who died in a gunfight with vice president Aaron Burr, has been known to walk the grounds of the First National Bank of America. Steven Girard, the current owner of the building, says the haunting is so noticeable that he even brought in a priest to bless the bank. Even this Exorcist-esque drama wasn’t enough to keep this dedicated dead president away though. Tourists regularly report seeing President Hamilton pacing the halls.

 

Ghost: Ben Franklin

Haunts: Everywhere
From the steps of Old City Hall, where unsuspecting tourists often catch him sleeping, to the library of the American Philosophical Society, where he has been known to stock up on books, the ghost of Ben Franklin is just about everywhere. You may not see him in the “Metropolis” section of Philadelphia Magazine, but this colonial era socialite is always out on the town, stirring up trouble. For the best chance of catching the first American’s undead soul, stop by his gravesite in the yard of Christ Church, located at 5th and Arch.

Want to hear more Philadelphia ghost stories? Sign up for a Big Red Historical Tour today through the end of October!

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